Europe


Saturday, July 31, 2004

 

Half way through Poland

We decided to stay an extra day... we feel spoiled here in Torun, but it's too nice to leave just yet! In any case, we're about half way through Poland, and have now decided on our route to Lithuania. Pretty much straight East, with a little Northern turn to see some of the lake district. Think we'll be in Lith. in a little over a week, then we have another break planned... a few days in a Lithuania hot springs! Sweet...

Do widzenia,
Brad






Cycling from July 23 to July 29.

Friday, July 30, 2004

 

Torun proper

Okay... now for the real blog.

As it turns out Chodziez was hosting a jazz festival. And we probably got literally the last hotel room in the town! It was fun, music was everywhere with players practicing throughout parks, in the hotel, everywhere. I think that it was a make work project for musicians because there were more musicians than anyone else! And they weren't all young students either. (Other make work projects include highway grooming... does it really take 10 guys to clean off the side of a really crappy road? But with high unemployment I think that anything goes.) We got to go to a concert for free in the Jazz club attached to the hotel.

The next town we stayed in was Szubin. We met some other cycle tourists, you can check out their website at: www.voluntario.de/tour

Torun is great. We're thinking of staying here for a third night. It's probably the nicest city we've been in yet. The whole downtown is the oldtown with many buildings from 1200 and before. We're staying is student residences and it's cheap. About 7$ each! My favourite part is the commercial drive style eatery. I never knew how much I was missing tofu! (We've already eaten there twice!)

Emillie






The city walls of Torun.







This Teutonic Knights castle has seen better days...


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

 

Nearing Torun

Wow, is our weather ever improved... we getting sun almost every day! But at least its not as hot as I hear it is in Vancouver. Our cycling is pretty lax, since there doesn't seem to be much gradient in Poland. The mountains are to the South, and we're cycling almost straight through the middle. We've been in Gorzow Wlkp, Drezdenko, and tonight in Chodziez. Gorzow was glamorous, about 100 years ago, but really seems to be having problems now. Lots of beautiful old buildings, with mildew and dirt on the facades and scaffolding on the first floor to keep parts of the buidlings from hitting pedestrians... the hotels are offering discounts for the weekends!

Drezdenko and Chodziez are decent, middle class style mill towns familiar to BC, but with a bit of history... although old buildings are almost non-existant, probably due to Polands recent past. All new or newly renovated buildings are very colorful; oranges, fuschia, etc. We ate in an aubergine/lime/yellow restaurant yesterday.

The Tour de France is on the TV's everywhere... or was. Lance won again, right? Hard to tell in Polish. Anyways, it was much more pronounced in the big cities... Berlin, Muenster, Amsterdam. But I've seen glimpes of it in Poland. And the big advertising campaigns for the olympics are ramping up. Mostly the big brands. Can't wait for it to start!

Oh, and the TV is interesting (when we get one in our room... the Zlot (Polish currency) is about 1 Can = 2.5 Zlot, so we get nice places fairly often). There's like one dude dubbing over all other languages... he must be a busy guy. And it doesn't matter how many characters are talking, he translates the whole program! And I even got to see a mountain bike show of some guys going to Panorama! That was a taste of home!

Here is our approx. trip map from the 13th to the 20th in Berlin...






Do widzenia,
Brad






Uncle Roger, another Gold River for you. Dirt cheap, and located in the city centre! The only trick is keeping it from falling down...







Soviet war memorial... see if the Russian readers can read the inscription...







A lot of the towns we've seen in Poland have most of the buildings post WWII. Here is an example of a church in the city centre of Chodziez. They like the Santa Fe style!




Saturday, July 24, 2004

 

Poland!

Well! There seems to be no shortage of internet cafes in small town Poland. The place has 2 internet places and only 1 place for us to stay. The keyboards, however, have gotten trickier. They look just like our keyboards, only the keys aren`t the same...

So, we went from Berlin to Bad Ferienwalde. Then this morning we crossed the boarder and we`re now in Chojna. Impressions are... mixed. We are definitely foreigners, and objects of curiosity by the locals. We communicate by using a pigeon mix of German, Russian, and English. The towns themselves are even more run down, and the post war rebuilding is still obviously continuing. The cars are much more run down, and Russian styles (leaving us gagging for air when one passes). Luckily the roads are not full of cars. The bonuses are: everything is much less expensive, the town is more lively, and everyone is more friendly! I`m looking forward to exploring some more.

Oh, a final note of interest: we have been watching the European MTV during our time here. There appears to be two songs, identical in everyway except for that they are sung by different artists. We actually like the song, but find it confusing that it is being performed by two different bands. The song is `Dragostea Din Tei` and the artists are Ozone, a romanian boyband and Haiduci, with a female singer. Last night the songs were number 1 and 2 of the European count down!?! We got to see both videos in a row. I wish we could understand the announcer`s explanation for why there are two bands with the same song!

Do widzenia,
Emillie






Chilling out on the Poland side of the border.







Outside a church in Chojna.


Thursday, July 22, 2004

 

Berlin 2

So, we're leaving Berlin tomorrow for Poland! Here are some of the things of note we`ve discovered in our short visit to Berlin...
- Berlin is STILL really two cities (East and West)... 2 centres, 2 subways, architecture, etc.
- everyone still thinks we're British, so our theory of the country being unable to recognize our accents goes out the window
- Berlin weather is impossible to forecast... or I should say that in 4 days, the forecasters had a 50% chance of being right (of course, there is only a 2 hour time constant for weather in Germany).
- Gas prices are really high (all across Germany...)... we're talking 1.15Euros... or almost 2Can a litre!

We saw the following sites... Brandenburg Gate, Charlottenburg Castle, the Berlin Cathedral, the war memorial church, and the museum of communications (that was my pick... we tried Emillie's pick of the Deutsch Guggenheim, but it was closed!). It's been great to be in a large German city, cause there's food for vegetarians, and stuff to do after 6pm at night.

Anyways, we might stay one more night in Germany before heading off to Poland. We're going to make our way towards Torun (via Bydogosz ?sp?). Since there aren`t many sizeable cities between here and there, we might not post for the next few days, but we'll see.

Tsusch,
Brad

UPDATE:
We`ve published our current bunch of photos (dating from Muenster). A bunch of good ones are sideways, and since we can`t rotate them right now, we`ll have to wait till later to put them up.






German beer sampler







Group photo







Emillie at the gate







Emillie communicating with robots







Charlottenburg Castle gardens






Tuesday, July 20, 2004

 

Berlin

We've reached Berlin! Which means that we'll be taking 2 days off, touring the city, doing chores (posting pics) etc.

Anyways, the trip to Berlin was harrowing, to say the least! Our bike decided to be cranky. First, it was a flat tire Thale; then the front rim went 'untrueable' in Dessau so we limped into Wittenburg (Lutherstadt) where we handed her over to a mechanic. The funny thing was the mechanic was not able to true the tire either, so we're hoping to buy a new rim. Hoping b\c 36 spokes rims are not common.

Wittenburg was great! It was the home of Martin Luther (hence the alternate name) so it had lots to see. Martin Luther reformed the church in Germany in the form of several theses he wrote as a prof at the university in Wittenburg.

The ride to Berlin was uneventful, and my first impressions of the city are: It's a huge city! How am I going to absorb it all in such a short time!?!

Tchuss,
Emillie

From Brad:
Thanks for all the comments guys! Keep them coming! It's good to see the pics of Gav too... and thanks for keeping the room open for us... it would be a welcome respite after some of the places we've been so far. By the way, the hostels in East Germany have been about 9Euro, with a mandatory 4Euro breakfast (I'm not complaining!).






Lutherstadt from the Castle/Church (we`ll rotate it later...)






Entering Potsdam






Smells of Berlin





Sunday, July 18, 2004

 

Germania East

Well, we've come quite a distance since the last post.  Only 2 or 3 days to Berlin now, and we've officially passed 1000km!!!!  The hostel prices have come down drastically (see below) and the hills have given way to great fields of plains... and windmills.  
 
A few days ago, we could tell that we passed into what was once East Germany.  At noon, we stopped for lunch in a great little town called Wernigerode.  Busy streets, wooden and stone buildings... really nice and 'upkept'.  The next town we pulled into, Blankenberg, was falling apart.   The buildings, while having once obviously belonged to wealthy people, were falling apart.  All the new buildings were very simple and stark (I guess to be expected).  There is lots of rebuilding though, with new houses and road work everywhere, and a few industrious people working on the older houses.  
 
Oh yeah, here's a quick list of places we've stayed lately... Thale, Bernburg, and tonight in Dessau.  Our trip as of July 13th made it up to the graphic below...  

Cheers!
Brad









How we knew we were in the former East Germany








Machine Power






Reparations






Scenic village view






Thursday, July 15, 2004

 

Country tour

We have been without Internet for a few days (hence no posts). I don't think rural Germany is very into internet cafes! So here's a rough breakdown of what we've been up to...

We spent two days in Munster because it was such a cool city and my (Emillie) legs needed a break. Then we hopped on the R1 Euro route on our way to Berlin. (The whole route goes from Calais to St. Petersburg). Anyways, we spent the next night in Hovelhof at a Guest house. The following night in Hoxter in a hostel with a kids group. It was so cute, they are all 9 years old, and just learning English, so they're teachers had them practice with us! Then we stopped in Bad Gandersheim (named for a hotspring). And tonight we're in Goslar at a gorgeous hostel. It looks like our hostel problems are over... for now.

Here's some interesting things we noticed:
-we are an annomaly in our cycling tour. Everyone else is either a family or a silver haired troop.
-I love the European bike. Built for convenience but would never work in Vancouver. The standard bike has: a chain guard, fixed gear, pannier rack, pedal powered light, a kick stand, and a person in a business suit, talking on the cellphone and smoking a cigarette.

-Double beds as we know it, do not exist in Germany. You can only get two singles pushed together. At first we thought it was just a cute guest house thing, but I think it's more predominant than that!

-They are very environmentally conscious. You always turn off lights as you leave a room. And you can select the level of toilet flushing to suit your needs!

That's all for now!

Tsusch,
Emillie







A fellow traveller on the road







Castle in Goslar (statues of Barbarossa and Kaiser Wilhelm!)







A view of the countryside that we enjoyed while cycling through the Harz area of Germany

Saturday, July 10, 2004

 

Munster

We've ditched the Roman route. We just plain got lost too many times... too curvy, and some signs were missing! So, we turned North after spending a luxurious night in a hotel in Werne (thanks Peter and Brig!!!). Munster is very nice (old, with 4 >700 year old churches in the city centre alone). We had a day of walking in the sunshine (liquid and hot) enjoying the city.

Oh, and we've finally found a place to download our pictures! Check them out in the older posts... we've just added them in below. And Emillie wants everyone to know that the special German characters didn't turn out the way she hoped... hence the R&%$merRoute...

Next, we're going to Berlin! One the Europa-Radweg R1 cycle route of which we just bought maps for. It looks great, and now we don't have to rely just on signs.

Tschush,
Brad






Brad outside an old monastery






Emillie in front of the gothic cathedral (1375 AD) in Munster






Emillie in front of the Grand Palace in Munster



Thursday, July 08, 2004

 

Römerroute

We decided to go across Germany. It seems that youth hostels here are
actually children's camps even though they are part of the YHA!? Anyways we
have been staying in what are called Guest Houses. These can be rooms in
someone's house or a hotel style thing.

Right now we are on the Roman route and have seen a few sights (aquaducts,
amphitheaters, baths, etc).

Oh, forgot to mention this before. For interesting herbal highs and lows
check out www.smartshop.nl They have these stores all over Amsterdam. They
can't sell pot or alcohol, but I was amazed at what they do sell!

Internet access is flakey right now because we're in small towns (and no USB
access..). Also the keyboard is hard to use (they have extra characters
äüö, and some things rearranged). We'll post pics when we can.

Tsusch, Emillie (we are learning german as no one speaks English, the
educational aspect).






Emillie and the Roman ruins






Brad and the nuclear power plant






Lunch






Party in the square in Werne

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

 

Alright... change of plans...

Well, as soon as we hit Bunnik (that great hostel a few nights ago) we
decided to ditch Belgium and go straight East to Germany. No hostels in
that section! Or very few... anyways, we stayed last night in Doorwerth, in
a hostel that was clearly meant for students (nice pub and a beach
volleyball court attached, but a dirty hostel). We then found out that ALL
the hostels in Germany are booked solid for July! All 3 that were within 1
days ride of us! Soooo... we're staying at a very nice room at a tennis
club (very cool... and cheaper than 2 beds at a hostel!) for tonight. Plans
for the next while are under construction....

So, about the cycle... very nice cycle route from Doorwerth to Kleeve (which
is in Germany). We got to take 2 small ferries across rivers. And get
this... one of the ferries was for cyclists only! Placed on what we think
was part of the Eurovelo we were so keen on. But we lost that route now...
not very well signed.
And the border between Germany and Holland? They turned it into a
crosswalk.

Cheers,
Brad






Bike and sign in Holland






The 'Border' between Germany and Holland






Thatched roof and sculpted trees in Holland





Sunday, July 04, 2004

 

hi

Hi everyone,

Apprently when I (Emillie) post to the blog it appears as though Brad is.
So, I guess I'll have to start signing my name. Anyways, we went on the
best bike route today. All along the top of dijks on a two-way fully signed
paved route. The views were of house boats and fancy mansions. A (ahum)
highlight was that the bike route went through the red light district in
Utricht. Even though we were staying right next to the red light district
in Amsterdam we didn't really see anything beyond porn shops. This was
explicit, floating houseboats with girls standing in the windows. (I
wouldn't let Brad take a photo, although he thought you would all find it
educational). We're staying tonight in a cool hostel in Bunnik, and
attending a Euro-cup party despite Netherlands lack of participation.

Ciao,
Emillie






Emillie across from a canal manorhouse






A view down a canal road


Saturday, July 03, 2004

 

Amsterdam...

Man, I've never had jet lag before. Makes for an almost psychedlic
experience (and no, I haven't smoked yet). We're cruising the canals today,
and leaving Amsterdam tomorrow morning for Bunnik (via the LF7 cycle route).
Amsterdam is nice, and has tonnes of character, but we're keen to explore
the country more. Our hostel (Stadsdoelen) is 5/10. Kitchen really sucks,
showers are tiny. Only bonus is that breakfast is rather large (all you can
eat). Nothing cooked though, but we get our granola!

Later,
Brad









Brad along a canal








Emillie in the wind


Friday, July 02, 2004

 

The arrival

Phew, we made it... We are sleep deprived and dazed, but alive. So a
pre-appology for mistakes in the blog.

The plane ride was the usual Air Canada special. Not much to report there.
But the bike ride from the airport was awesome. They probably have more
bike route than roads. Every sign we hit pointed to Amsterdam, basically in
every direction. After weaving our way along we finally found the city
centre (only had to ask for directions twice.) The city centre was an
adventure in itself. There are no apparent rhyme or reason to the street
signs (probably why our map doesn't even bother with names). And there are
no traffic control devices at all. Basically everyone goes everywhere all
at the same time. The busses and trams seem to get the right of way though.
(Probably because they're biggest). We finally found our hostel, almost
accidentally!

Needing food and sleep.








At the Amsterdam Airport




Thursday, July 01, 2004

 

Last post from Van!

This is the last post from Vancouver. We'll have some more interesting posts from the other side of the Atlantic!

Later!
Brad

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